How Data And Design Thinking Drive IBM’s Digital Marketing Engine

ChristopherWongChristopher Wong is VP of strategy and product management for IBM Commerce Marketing Solutions. He will discuss IBM’s digital marketing strategy at the upcoming Industry Preview 2016 conference in January.

The old adage of “If you build it, they will come” has been replaced with newer notions around “empathy mapping” and anticipating customer needs prior to product formation.

Innovation along those lines is common at companies like Apple. And even IBM.

“My entire team has gone through design camp,” said Christopher Wong, head of strategy and product management for IBM Commerce Marketing. “We have a project called Performance Insights to help marketers use [IBM’s] cognitive [learning] to help them improve their marketing."

"We go down to the Austin design center, participate in workshops and that design strategy becomes a core philosophy of how we create solutions starting with the user.”

One such output was the next iteration for Silverpop, the marketing automation system IBM bought in 2014.

“The entire Silverpop team has been through design camp, [which] resulted in Journey Designer, a tool to help marketers from across all sides of an organization create user journeys,” Wong said.

Wong spoke to AdExchanger about the next phase for IBM Commerce Marketing, the integration of its portfolio and how IBM’s acquisition of the Weather Channel’s digital assets will impact marketers. 

AdExchanger: What’s your role at IBM?

 CHRISTOPHER WONG: The division I lead is called the Marketing Solutions Group, and the IBM Marketing Cloud is the product we sell. I have a peer who focuses on ecommerce and while we do work together, my division and team are purely focused on marketers.

I’m responsible for leading our marketing solutions portfolio. We made a number of acquisitions beginning around four to five years ago to build a portfolio of solutions for marketers, which included Xtify (mobile messaging), Tealeaf (ecommerce), Coremetrics (analytics) and Silverpop (marketing automation). I was brought in two years ago to bring that portfolio of solutions together and infuse that with new capabilities to build one of the bleeding-edge platforms for marketers.

Is IBM’s ExperienceOne the same thing as the IBM Marketing Cloud?

When I came on board two years ago, we used the IBM ExperienceOne branding as a way to illustrate how we were bringing together our organization.

IBM Commerce is a standalone organization focused on different key areas in commerce: the back end, supply chain, B2B solutions and then customer engagement. Naturally, marketing solutions fits within customer engagement.

As ad and mar tech merge, what’s IBM’s strategy around paid media?

Paid media was initially focused on capturing eyeballs and getting maximum views. It was not as focused on identifying who a person was, at the individual level, but more in aggregate. It takes a lot of dollars and a lot of special tactics to execute, and so we saw a silo for paid media.

Then a unique set of tools and data were created, reinforcing the walls of the silo. The same thing happened with social media and owned media, whether that was around websites, outbound database marketing or the email team. These silos were formed with people from the need to execute and then reinforced by technology silos. What can break that down is tech itself.

Can you share an example of what IBM’s doing here?

One example is our Universal Behavior Exchange (UBX). We wanted to answer the question, “How do we make sure all of a marketer’s data flows from one channel to another?” UBX is a simple way for marketers to be able to link data across their different tools. We launched that with 15 partners including Facebook, Twitter and MediaMath, which … makes it easy for marketers who take actions in any one of those platforms, to [import] data into other channels.

How is IBM’s strategy different than incumbent marketing clouds?

We look at how to help marketers orchestrate their teams and campaigns across silos, even if they’re not using IBM. This is where we feel IBM is uniquely different. Many competitors say, “Join our marketing cloud or use our systems and you’ll be able to do everything you need.” Our approach is different. We recognize that there is so much innovation out there, so we take an open ecosystem approach.

How does design influence IBM product development?

All the product discussions we now have start with design. We do a lot of persona-based mockups and user empathy maps. When we were a company that sold technology primarily to IT organizations, it was more focused on function than use. You could create great IT technology and your end customer would build applications on top.

When we embarked on this path of building business applications, and transformed to being a cloud-based company, the user was everything. Marketers are very interested in use and application, they’re visual people. [Marketing] was one of the first to the gate with [IBM’s] design center.

What are the implications for IBM Commerce Marketing given IBM’s acquisition of The Weather Co.’s digital and mobile data assets?

There are huge implications for marketers. One is the data itself, where there’s obviously opportunity to provide greater data not only about weather, but location around individuals the Weather Channel has been capturing. The other part is around analytics. The ability to draw relationships between things that are happening that are due to weather or other events and how that’d impact what you do in your marketing.

This is also where [IBM’s] cognitive business will come into play. There are so many sources of data, but understanding the relationships and ways you can action off of it won’t be accomplished by simple human effort. You will need automated systems to make new recommendations. … Combined with new data possibilities from the Weather Channel, we see a lot of possibilities for marketers.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

 

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